In December of 2019, a group of stakeholders from across sectors came together to launch Group Violence Intervention (GVI), an evidence-based strategy for reducing gun violence. The effort was supported by an anonymous grant to the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities (SET) Fund. Because other nonprofits were not yet engaging in this specific type of work, the Community Foundation agreed to take on initial project management.
Over time, a strong coalition has formed to support this work. For the past year, Foundation 2 has managed the Support & Outreach component of GVI, which focuses on direct support for those at highest risk of violent offense or victimization. In 2023, Foundation 2 will take over as the primary coordinator of the overall GVI strategy.
“GVI was brought to the community with the goal of having a nonprofit partner eventually take over,” said Casey Baustian, Program Officer at the Community Foundation and current Project Manager. “Foundation 2 has been a key partner since the beginning, and everyone involved is confident that they will keep this work moving in the right direction.”
After a spike in violence in both Cedar Rapids and across the country in 2020, there is some good news. In 2022, Cedar Rapids saw 115 shots fired through November. This is the same as through November in 2021 and is 29.5% lower than the same period in 2020. For Black male youth ages 15-24, who are at the highest risk of being victims of gun violence, the rate of those struck by gunfire per 100,000 has been below the 2020 high for two years in a row, including no new incidents in that demographic since mid-September.
Outreach Workers have around 20-25 clients at any time who have been identified as high-risk and choose to be part of the program. Clients received support in working towards individual goals, such as finding stable employment, figuring out safe housing, pursuing educational opportunities, or meeting court requirements.
Foundation 2 has hired Lisa Jordan as the permanent Program Coordinator. “I am looking forward to meeting with community members, the various partners, and so many others invested in this program who share the same goal of keeping people safe, alive, and out of prison,” Lisa said. “I am excited to use my experience and knowledge of working with nonprofits and families in a new way.”
The Community Foundation will continue to support violence prevention work being done throughout this transition as well as make grants that support SET goals established in the 2017 Task Force report.